Wheatbelt & Perth Storms 6&7-1-13

On Sunday I headed out to the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia to again chase down a few thunderstorms that were forecast to develop in the area during the afternoon. And form up they did. I headed off from my place in the northern suburbs of Perth at around 1215pm and drove towards the town of Brookton. As I headed down a highway towards Brookton I encountered very heavy rain about 15km from the town, heavy enough for me to almost come to a complete stop for 30s. It was a crawling pace, but only last for a short while.

I got to Brookton at around 1445, and refuelled. I had received a call just prior to arriving from fellow chaser Tom, who said that he was going to try and get in front of a system that was already forming just SE of town, so after refuelling I checked the radar and realised that Tom was on the money, the system that he was chasing was developing quickly.
Not one to wait around, I headed south towards Pingelly, and then east towards the town on Yealearing. I found myself about 5-10 minutes too late, the storm was already over the town, and I had no other choice but to try and core punch the system to get to the other side (something I do not recommend trying, and something I always try to avoid). The result would’ve been a few spectacular photos. I know this because Tom was able to get in front of this cell and capture the most defined wall/shelf cloud I have seen for a long time.

Feeling a bit down because I had driven a few hours to get here and missing the shot, I was still very keen to stay out and try to get a few shots. The forecast wasn’t the best, so I had made the decision to head towards the town of York and try my luck at some star trail time-lapse for the night. Though my luck was about to change. As I was heading towards York, I could see on the northern horizon a series of cumulonimbus clouds exploding into the air. So I pulled over for a quick look at the radar, and it confirmed a thunderstorm was in fact starting to build to my north by about 75km. So that is where I headed, towards the town of Goomalling, and then onto Wongan Hills.

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I didn’t make it to Wongan Hills as the storm was well and truly firing by the time I got close. The lightning was very frequent, and when I got my camera set up, I was capturing at least 2-3 strikes per 20sec in frame, (out of frame easily 5 more). It was an incredible lightshow and it was going to fly directly over me.

I set my camera up as quick as I could and hopped back into my car, just in case a stray bolt decided that I was going to be a target on this night. As the storm got closer the winds picked up tremendously, with gusts easily in excess of 100kmh, I struggled to get the camera back into my car. My car was shaking around, and I knew I had to get further up the road and away from these gusts.

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As I pulled out from the edge of a farmers paddock, I was lucky enough to bump into fellow chasers who were chasing this particular system earlier on.
We all headed back towards Goomalling and watched this system fire of lightning like there was no tomorrow. An incredible sight.

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The system continued for another 45 minutes or so towards Goomalling, before tracking slightly more to the SE towards Cunderdin, the storm weakened rapidly and we headed off.

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On the way home, I checked the radar one more time, and low and behold another couple of cells were moving down the coast from Geraldton. Knowing I had the Monday off work, I got in contact with another chaser/photographer who was out in the wheatbelt to see whether he wanted to stay out and wait for these storms to come to us. We met up in Yanchep, and the cells tracked straight down the coast passed Jurien Bay, Lancelin, Guilderton and then onto Yanchep. I didn’t have my telephoto lens, so I decided that I would time-lapse the approaching storms.

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The second and final cell went over our heads at around 0530am.

The radar showed not too much more development was in behind these cells, so I headed home exhausted, but with a card full of very cool shots.

I travelled a total of 890km for the day chasing around the Wheatbelt and back into Perth. Needless to say, I loved every minute of it.

A video I put together of the chase, it features a couple of short time-lapse sequences, as well as a few photos found in this post

YouTube (Video Link)
Vimeo (Video Link)

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